Guest blog post from Bill Ketzer, Senior Director of the Northeastern Region for ASPCA Government Relations.
Last week, a historic law went into effect that will vastly improve the quality of life for thousands of dogs and cats in Massachusetts.
Advanced by a forward-thinking state legislature led by Senator Patricia Jehlen and signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick this August, Massachusetts’ new animal control law is one of the best in the nation.
At Animal Advocacy Day in Boston earlier this year, I had the privilege of working directly with the MSPCA, the HSUS, the Animal Rescue League of Boston and more than 80 citizen advocates to discuss the importance of this bill with key members of the Massachusetts House and Senate. Everyone involved was engaged, well-informed and passionate—and as you can see, this clearly resonated with legislators and staff.
The new Massachusetts law:
Creates a statewide spay/neuter program—funded by a voluntary tax check-off—to reduce the number of homeless animals in Massachusetts.
Requires animal control officers to receive training.
Prohibits the use of inhumane gassing to euthanize shelter animals.
Eliminates ineffective, breed-specific local ordinances while improving dangerous dog laws.
Allows pets to be included in domestic violence protection orders to protect both animals and people.
Creates a framework for statewide oversight for animal control.
Creates categories for kennel licensing.
Creates consistency in the holding time for stray dogs at shelters statewide.
Sandy hit the Rockaways hard, and the ASPCA is responding in that area in three ways: We’re distributing pet supplies at several key points, providing veterinary care to residents, and rescuing animals who were left behind as the storm bore down on this seaside community.
One call our rescue team received informed us that the Rivera family in the Rockaways had been forced to leave their dog and three cats behind when they evacuated to a shelter on Tuesday.
Leann and Manny Rivera had been at home with their seven children when Sandy hit, and it was only a matter of minutes before their home was flooded with 15 or 16 feet of water.
Their landlord told them to break down the door on the empty third-floor apartment in their two-family house, so all nine people and four pets huddled in one room there until the water was low enough that they could swim out.
The Riveras didn’t know they could bring pets to the shelter, and they also had no way to get them through the water. They left their pets in the house with four days’ worth of food and water and trudged through their flooded street to a police station, where they were sent to a shelter. Staff there told them the ASPCA could help them get their animals back, and we did.
We found the cats hiding in various places around the house and the little dog, terrified, barking on the couch. We placed the cats in carriers and wrapped the dog in a blanket and took them to safety.
When we pulled in to the evacuation center where the Riveras were staying, Leann ran next to our truck as it pulled in. She couldn’t wait to see her “other children.” As we opened the van door, Leann’s little dog nearly exploded with glee to see his mom again, and Leann returned the enthusiasm. The animals are now with the Riveras at the shelter, where Leann reports her children are overjoyed to see their pets again.
Field rescues of animals trapped in homes continues today in the Rockaways and elsewhere.
The ASPCA is marking day two of water and land rescues in Ocean County, New Jersey, in one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. This afternoon, the ASPCA’s Dr. Dick Green and Bruce Earnest rescued four cats and their pet parent, a woman in her seventies, who lived in an evacuation zone.
The woman decided to stay in her home, rather than evacuate, because she didn’t want to leave her cats behind. Luckily, ASPCA responders were able to reach her, rescue the cats, and drive the woman to a friend’s house on higher ground.
The ASPCA is continuing to work closely with local officials and our partners in New Jersey and New York to respond to animal rescue requests. Our priority is to help reunite as many pet parents as possible with their animals.
Ocean County, New Jersey, was particularly devastated by the affects of Hurricane Sandy, and the ASPCA is on the ground there conducting water and land rescues for animal displaced or lost during the storm.
At the request of the Ocean County Health Department and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department in Toms River, New Jersey, ASPCA responders arrived on the ground late Thursday to work with local officials to assess the situation and establish a system to reunite pet parents with their animals.
On Friday, an eight-person team responded to more than 30 animal rescue requests, retrieving displaced pets and reuniting them with their owners.
“Many people have lost their homes due to the storm, and our goal is to alleviate some of the stress for pet owners by reuniting them with their animals,” says Dr. Dick Green, Director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team.
These efforts are a true collaborative effort with other responders from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Rescue League of Boston, as well as the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Toms River Animal Control.
Right now in New York City, thousands of people are waiting in lines, some that stretch for blocks. They’re waiting for the basic necessities: food, water, toilet paper and, yes, pet food.
Victims of Sandy have been through so much, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped caring about their pets. For some NYC residents, their pets may be all they have left.
So as early as we could, the ASPCA began visiting some of the hardest hit areas with desperately needed pet supplies like dog food, cat food and cat litter. At each location, we’ve barely opened up our trucks before they are emptied by pet parents in need.
As our responders handed out supplies to everyone we could this afternoon, an 11- or 12-year-old boy stopped to thank us.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “I have a dog at home, and he’s hungry.”